Tuesday, June 8, 2010


I’m home once again and convinced that a year has never gone so quickly or been so defining. While I am enjoying catching up with family and friends, I find myself missing South Asia already. I hope to have the opportunity to share with many of you personally about our work and how structural change is coming- slowly but surely- to places that need it most. And of course, this year has held so many fun memories even beyond the work… survive highway travel in auto rickshaws- check; make beautiful jewelry with rescued girls- check; master the art of making chapatti (almost) check; see the Himalayas- check; learn how to get rid of lice- check (and check).

As mentioned in my previous posts, this year has held many moments of struggle with God regarding the injustice that seems to reign in some places in the world. Yet, as I reflect on this year, I feel affirmed that God has ordained that we be His hands and feet to bring justice to those who have been denied it. I have learned that when men and women of God stand in the gap on behalf of the oppressed, He is faithful to give them the power to bring justice for those who have been denied it. Of course, this doesn’t always happen according to our timeline or plan, but it’s happening. As my final update, I want to share a story of one of our cases that illustrates God’s goodness in working things together for good.

A few months ago we received a referral of a young woman whose mother had threatened to send her to a brothel after she completed her school exams. This was no empty threat- her mother had trafficked her younger sister two years earlier to a brothel in another city where she had been forced to prostitute to support the family for the past two years. After receiving the information and investigating accordingly, our office worked with another IJM office to rescue both sisters the same day. As with many of our young clients, the 17-year-old girl rescued from the brothel presented as hostile; she wanted to go back to her family, despite their abuse and exploitation.

It took about two months to have her transferred to our city where her sister could meet her. Their initial meeting went terribly, and we all worried that the older sister would regret her decision to go against her family and seek justice for herself and her sister. Our office continued to support the older sister while praying for these sisters diligently.

The week I left, I had the privilege of supervising the second visit between these sisters along with one of the IJM Social Workers. I watched in amazement as the girls slowly and calmly warmed up to each other, began telling stories, and laughed together. Another IJM client living in the home also joined, and we found that this girl, fifteen years, had been speaking words of truth and comfort to the younger sister- her new best friend. The result had been a transformed attitude in the young sister. A victim of commercial sexual exploitation herself, this girl encouraged the young sister to learn something while in the aftercare home and to consider what her life would be like if she returned home. She shared her own story of betrayal by her family and was able to minister to the young sister in a way that no one else could. What had meant to destroy was being used to bless.

As we drove back to the office, I was overcome with the manifestation of Isaiah 61:1-3 that I had just witnessed. I continue to revel in the beauty of God’s timing and divine appointment of this friendship.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

I would be remiss to sign off without thanking you one last time for all your prayers, encouragement, and support over the past year. I feel so incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to see God bring beauty from ashes, give gladness for mourning, and bestow praise instead of despair… all for the display of His splendor. And I ask that you would continue to remember the victims of human trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation and continue to support the work of justice however God moves you to do so.

With love and thanks,


Thursday, April 8, 2010

2010 So Far...

I realize it’s a bit cliché to say, but, honestly, I cannot believe it’s April already! An update of the past few months in South Asia…

January crawled by initially with anticipation of three visitors at the end of the month. A friend from college dropped in for a long weekend and then my Mom and her “co-sister,” as the national staff describe her (she is actually my brother’s mother-in-law), Chris, came for a week of checking out my city and doing some traveling down South. I can’t tell you how fun it was to show people around my home.


Enter February and our team once again began rescue operations. In February, we saw some major women and a minor girl come out of a life of forced prostitution. Amazing. One of the women has already opted for rehabilitation services and will soon begin computer training, English classes, and counseling. My roommates and I had a small situation in February when one of them had to spend a few days in the hospital due to a persistent parasite- but all is well now, and we have some pretty good hospital stories to tell from the experience, so there’s the silver lining.

In March, one of our advocates celebrated a conviction of a woman who had abetted the repeated rape of one of our referral cases. The survivor came to our office the day after the conviction with sweets to say “thank you.” Later that day, she was able to celebrate International Women’s Day at the government home where she was once a resident and be recognized for her courage in testifying against her perpetrator- an empowering and inspiring experience.

And now April is here, the first weekend of which was spent traveling to some amazing places in South Asia with the other interns and fellows. It was so nice to get out of the city for a bit and enjoy some fresh(er) air and good company!

April is already shaping up to be a busy month with an assessment of the Model Aftercare Home project, many repatriations for rescued girls to their home states, and the rolling out of our Staff Care Plan to support our employees in their work that exposes them to a great deal of trauma.

In terms of what I have been learning- beyond budgets and program design and implementation, of course- I feel that God is revealing more and more about what is good and what He requires of His people. As a disclaimer to my upcoming personal outpouring, I certainly don’t mean to sensationalize the work here or the people doing it. Amidst the rescue operations and convictions and breakthroughs with rescued girls there are everyday tasks- reports to write, data to manage, emails to return, lunch to order (which typically falls to me, as I consistently get hungry before anyone else in my department). It’s an office like any other in many ways, yet I think God has been teaching me through the consistent selfless love shown by my teammates.

A while back, one of my best friends had shared with me a verse from Philippians that she had been meditating on… At the time, I enjoyed hearing her insights, and this January, the verses came back with conviction:

Philippians 1:9-11 (The Message)

“So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.”

I’m not sure if I had mentioned it before, but part of my role since October has been to manage the three Case Mangers in our aftercare department. I’m certainly learning a great deal, and I couldn’t ask for a better (and more gracious) team. However, one of the hardest things I have to do in this role is to call the Case Mangers- late at night, early in the morning, throughout the day- and ask them to do things that go beyond the call of duty.

For example, a few weeks ago, I called one of the Case Managers who had been up since 5:00 am so that she could accompany and provide support to a victim who was testifying in court, and asked her to come to the office (a two hour commute) so that she could be present for another rescue operation- an all night event. I apologized profusely for this request while she giggled and said, “No problem, Ann. I am coming.” And she came. And when I talked to her the next day at 7:30 am when she finally reached home, she didn’t complain or talk about how tired she was- she excitedly told me about the highlight of the operation- one of the women wanted rehabilitation!

And then, last month, another Case Manager left for an aftercare home at 5:00 pm after a long day at work. Two hours later, she finally arrived at the home where she was to meet a newly rescued girl. She called me at 10:00 pm that evening to let me know she made it home safely and recounted about how she was able to pray with this young woman and give comfort to her in a very scary time. I answered her with a weak “thank you.” Her response? “It’s my pleasure, dear.”

I can only imagine this is the kind of heart Jesus had in mind when He commissioned us to not only love much but to love well. And let me tell you, that kind of love certainly makes Jesus attractive. I’m so thankful to be here, pursuing justice alongside a team who are daily teaching me how to seek justice out of selfless love. It’s pretty incredible.

I so appreciate your ongoing prayers for the work and for me and those I work alongside. Thank you.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

International Justice Mission - Seven Trafficking Perpetrators Convicted

Happy 2010!

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season with family and friends. November and December were some great months! Here are some highlights…

  • Thanksgiving in Rome! My visa requires that I leave the country every 180 days, and a week in Rome was the perfect way to obey the rules, get some fresh air and enjoy time with my great friend, Michelle, who so graciously agreed to meet me half way between here and home!
  • At work, December was almost entirely consumed with Christmas parties- eleven in all-hosted by IJM aftercare staff at each of our partner aftercare homes. Throw in shopping for gifts for all the residents and home staff and organizing the food and programs and you discover that the social workers I work with should be moonlighting as party planners. They did an amazing job!
  • At home, we did some fairly high class Christmas decorating, complete with a homemade Nativity scene and an (outline of a) Christmas tree! Christmas in South Asia was low-key and relaxing. Though it was a bit sad to be far from family and friends, remembering Jesus’ birth affirmed the reason I came to South Asia in the first place- service out of gratefulness for the sacrifice made on my behalf. It felt right to be here this year.
  • Our office had seven convictions of perpetrators in November and December! We talk a lot about making structural change around here, and these convictions are a critical component to doing just that by making perpetrators think twice about exploiting women and children for profit. To read more, please click on the link above.

As we start 2010, I am thankful for all the headway God allowed our office in 2009 and hopeful for what is to come as we begin this new year of seeking justice. I realize I am basically just speaking in bullet points now, but I have some specific projects I want to update you on things around the office (mostly specific to our aftercare department) and ask for your prayers for our work!

  • Implementation of the Protocols for Minimum Standards of Care is an on-going project with one of our partner aftercare homes. Please continue to pray for positive and trusting partnerships between IJM and the partner aftercare home to make this place a model facility for girls rescued from commercial sexual exploitation.
  • Partnership with the government homes is tricky business, yet absolutely necessary. All rescued women and girls spend at least some amount of time in a government home immediately following rescue, some for just 21 days while most spend upwards of 4 months to one year and beyond. Our hope is to improve relationships with these homes in order to gain better access to the residents as well as be able to make crucial infrastructure improvements to the facilities, meet basic needs, and enhance rehabilitation and reintegration programs.
  • Building a more efficient case management system is also on the agenda for our case managers this year. I am excited about the opportunity to work closely with the social workers to do this, though, as with nearly everything I’ve worked on since coming to IJM, I feel a little in over my head by the task.
  • Please pray for some crucial positions in our office to be filled: Assistant Director of Aftercare, Clinical Programs, Counselor, Case Manager, Director of Investigations, and Director of Church Relations. Pray that God brings qualified candidates with a passion for the work of justice to join us.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your on-going support, prayers and encouragement. I wish you all the best in 2010!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Life as I know it...

What I really need is my sister here to show me how to post pictures properly, but since she has five kids and a husband at home, I don't think she'll be flying to Asia anytime soon. That said, please bear with me as I try to give you a glimpse into everyday life as I currently know it...

Life in South Asia might very well begin with traffic. Thankfully, I live within walking distance to pretty much everything I need- work, market, gym. But, when I do venture out of my neighborhood, I typically find myself in some form of traffic. As you might guess from the picture, the road is pretty much fair game for whatever you've got. Rickshaws, big trucks, little tempos, cabs, buses, motorcycles, bicycles and various livestock are all expected to share the road, but not necessarily abide by any traffic rules. Fender benders are pretty much a given, and no one seems to mind all that much if you bump whatever is in front of you a little.

Work is only a ten-fifteen minute walk from my apartment, depending on if you want to go the long way or the short way. However, leaving late means you will be walking by a pretty pungent dumpster and a public toilet, so, in my book, it pays to leave a few minutes early. Our office is opposite a mutton shop; Friday afternoons are particularly traumatizing. In five months, I have managed not to ever look directly into the shop in fear of seeing a goat being butchered- hearing them is sad enough.

Each morning at work our entire office meets for 30 minutes of fellowship and prayer, and then we have another 30 minutes of stillness... reminders that we do nothing out of our own strength. In Aftercare, we have a brief daily team meeting and off we go to our various tasks... Above is me at my desk, super busy, of course, and getting some help from Ashley, the admin intern, as I am hopeless at computers. Casual Fridays are a hit everywhere in the world, I would say. I will write more about work projects soon.

After work, it's anyone's guess... I'm blessed to have some great roommates, Steph and Katie, who I can debrief with and have ice cream delivered in the case of a particularly rough day (seriously, you can get nearly anything delivered here, it's fantastic). Auntie comes in around 7:30 and cooks us dinner. She has become like family, and she spoils us. Lately, I have been spending many nights with some friends perfecting my game of carrom, which is a mix of pool and table shuffleboard. My goal is to get really good, bring home a couple boards, and impress everyone with my amazing flicking techniques...or at least be able to beat my brothers. We'll see.

Weekends are a toss up between laying low and enjoying rest and exploring the city. Every other Saturday or so some of us from the office meet at a coffee shop on the beach... a time to get to know each other and someone usually brings a crossword, so it's a good time all around. Below is a picture of some exploring we did one weekend... the day involved a ferry ride, old caves with magnificent carvings, and incredibly pushy monkeys. It was so nice to get out of the city.

So, this is just a glimpse into my day-to-day life here. I have a bit of trouble summing it all up... Amazingly, many things that maybe shocked me initially feel pretty normal by now. Yet, the poverty and need of the city still go noticed. I want to thank you for your prayers and the words of encouragement I received after my last post… learning to walk by faith continues to be a challenge, yet I have been inspired by your insights and encouraged to see God show up in the midst of my doubt.

Shortly after my last post, our office had a half-day prayer retreat where our director spoke about joy. He quoted IJM's president, Gary Haugen, who has likened joy to the oxygen of the candle of justice… that it’s simply necessary for the work. He alleged that though our work will be hard, there will be joy. In all honesty, I got a little lost in my own thoughts at this point, wondering how to have joy in the face of what often feels like a losing battle. Then he read Psalm 126.

“When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, the Lord has done great things for them. The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping carrying seed to sow will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.”

Whenever we rescue one girl, I feel a little like someone who dreams big dreams- the kind of dreams that are impossible without the hand of God intervening. Essentially, it was someone’s dream to rescue that girl; to go out and find her in a brothel, to rescue her from bondage, and to bring her perpetrators to justice. It was first Gary Haugen’s dream, and today, in our field office alone, 134 girls’ lives are forever changed because he (and then many others who came alongside) took hold of a vision God gave. That's joy.

It occurred to me that I have been hesitant to be joyful because it somehow felt disloyal to the plight of those who have not yet been rescued- those who are still experiencing cruelty and injustice and those who will forever live with the scars of others' sin. But what I read in this passage is that the joy experienced from acknowledging the great things God has done does not take away from the brokenness I feel for those who are still waiting, rather it gives hope to continue the work…

These days I am trying to be more mindful of the moments where we reap with songs of joy- not only after successful rescues, but in smaller instances such as when a rescued girl indicates that she wants to pursue her education or when bail is denied for a perpetrator- the small things that spark the courage to continue in pursuit of justice, even in the face of a losing battle.

With that, I want to say thank you, once again- first, for hanging in there if you made it to the end of this post! Secondly, for your continued prayers both for me and for the work being done here. I feel so privileged to be here, and I am so grateful for your partnership with me in this work and your support in my personal journey of learning to walk by faith.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A New Prayer

It’s been a while since my last post; I can’t believe how fast time is going by! I continue to really enjoy being immersed into the culture of South Asia, and I plan to post some pictures of “life as I know it” soon. But for now, I wanted to update you on what has been filling my days and thoughts lately…

As for my days, my time at work has been spent on various projects this past month- everything from beginning to define and map out our aftercare workflow process to preparing budgets. I can’t say it enough- I feel like I am constantly learning. By far, my favorite part of my role right now is being part of the “Monitoring Team” for one of our partner aftercare homes. We are currently in the process of implementing the protocols of standards of care that I assisted in writing in July- a process that will likely take a couple years. I love my weekly appointments at the home, interacting with the staff and the residents and drinking their famous chai tea. It has been some much needed encouragement to already see small changes- life skills education and soft skills training have already begun along with computer and English classes, and I am excited about the opportunities such education will give the girls. Our hope is that this home that will one day be a “model aftercare home” for girls rescued from commercial sexual exploitation. I appreciate your prayers in this ongoing effort.

As for my thoughts, they continue to be somewhat consumed with learning how to relate to God in the face of such harsh injustice. I know- not the most encouraging thing I have written to date, yet I desire to be transparent with you- my supporters, friends, and prayer partners. So, if you will bear with me, I’ll do my best to explain…

In Mark 9, Jesus has an interaction with a man who asks Jesus to heal his son from the demon that has plagued the boy since childhood. In what seems to me a request made in utter desperation, the father says to Jesus, “…But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us." To me, the father appears to be at the end of his rope, frustrated and doubtful that anything can actually save his son yet still willing to try anything. I absolutely relate to this man, and I have prayed similar prayers many times, especially over the past four months.

What I am a bit taken aback by in this story is what happens next. Jesus does heal the boy, but not before He calls the father out on his doubt: " 'If you can'?’ said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for him who believes.’” Leave it to Jesus to keep it real, right?

Now, while the story of Jesus’ compassion on this father and the ultimate healing of the boy is one of encouragement, I share this story because the father’s response very simply captures how I have been feeling lately: “Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’”

This is where I’m at right now. In my heart, I do believe. I believe that God is good and sovereign and just. I see stories of victory and small changes, like the ones happening at the aftercare home I mentioned above. I believe that God loves these girls more than I do…more than I ever could, in fact. But the more disappointments I experience in our work, and there are quite a few of them, the more I am aware of my own unbelief.

I listen to the story of a fourteen year old girl who was rescued before being sold into a brothel and, while I rejoice in her freedom, I anguish over the fact that she had been sexually assaulted long before she was ever trafficked into the trade. I wonder if rape will ever stop being the reality for so many girls growing up in rural villages in South Asia? I come to know that two of the aftercare homes for rescued girls are chronically functioning over capacity with substandard living conditions; I wonder how we can expect holistic healing if we can’t offer them a life that is much better than the one they had in the brothel? I meet a beautiful, smart young woman who is living with HIV, a result of sex that was forced upon her; I wonder why she is left to suffer the consequence of someone else’s sin?

In the face of these facts, I doubt. I doubt God’s goodness and His sovereignty and His justice. I feel like the psalmist in Psalm 82:2-4, 8: “How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance.”

I get so frustrated that it doesn’t seem like we are winning the battle against injustice all the time. I feel angry that it seems like evil is allowed to rule over people- innocent people like the women and girls who are abused over and over again in the brothels. Not unlike the man in Mark 9, I find myself crying out to God to just fix it, to put an end to their suffering and bring justice… all the while in the back of my mind thinking, “…if You can.”

To be honest, I am not really sure what I can do to change my heart’s reaction in the face of such brokenness except to consistently follow up my weak prayers as the father in Mark 9: “I do believe…help me to overcome my unbelief!” If you have any thoughts on this, please feel free to email them my way- I would love your insights. And above all, I ask for your prayer- for our work, for the girls, and for me personally that the Lord would help me to walk by faith.